AIR QUALITY INDEX by Mike Nagel

Sunday morning my phone warns me that the air quality in Carrollton is low. I step outside and take a few deep breaths. I can see what my phone means. Not great. Most things leave something to be desired. Let me put it this way. There seems to be some room for improvement. Recently J showed me a graph and the line was going straight down.

“Well,” I say. “I can’t say I’m surprised.”

“Actually,” she says. “In this case, down is a good thing.”

 

Lately I’ve been drinking this low ABV cider from the Stella Artois beer company. It’s called Cidre. That’s French for cider. 4.5% ABV. Basically apple juice. 

I can drink four or five of them before I start to feel a buzz. Then I can drink another four or five before I start to feel kind of sick. Then I can drink another three or four before I’ve made a huge mistake. Then maybe another one or two after that. Then maybe just one more. 

Life, I think, is all about finding your limits.

Or, I don’t know, maybe it’s about something else. I’m usually wrong about what things are about. When I first read Animal Farm I thought it was about an animal farm. I thought Gone with the Wind was going to be a weather movie, like Twister.

 

To be safe, J and I and the animals spend Sunday inside. We breathe the inside air. It’s triple filtered. Passed through brick, drywall, and that pink insulation stuff that looks like cotton candy.

Funny story. My grandpa used to work in a cotton candy factory. I mean an insulation factory. They say that breathing in that pink crap all day is probably what killed him. One of the things. A contributing factor.

Outside, the air looks OK to me. It looks like air.

“It’s more of an invisible threat,” J says. 

She shows me a graph and the line is going straight down.

“Oh good,” I say.

“Actually,” she says. “In this case, down is bad again.”

 

Sometimes when I can’t sleep I watch these YouTube videos of this guy who picks bike locks. The videos are like twelve seconds long. That’s how long it takes to pick a bike lock. Bike safety is mostly an illusion. 

Other types of safety too.

At night, when the wind blows, I can hear air getting into the duplex. Between the dried-out window seals. Underneath the doors. I’ve read that the air inside our homes is two to one hundred times more polluted than the air outside. And the air outside wasn’t great to begin with. There’s no such thing as a breath of fresh air. I think you have to go to Antarctica for something like that.

 

Last night while the wind was blowing and the air was getting in I was in the bathroom throwing up apple cider into the sink. I prefer throwing up into sinks. I don’t know why so many people throw up into toilets. 

“Better out than in I always say,” my grandpa always used to say, the one who died of cotton candy poisoning at age seventy (at his funeral my brothers and I were shocked to learn that he had “died young”). He really did use to say that too. But even all these years later, twenty-some or whatever it is, I can’t for the life of me figure out what that’s supposed to mean.


Mike Nagel lives in Texas. Dallas area. His dog is a schnauzer terrier rescue who can perform exactly zero tricks. He recently bought a drum machine.

Art by Eli Sahm.

Read Next: HOW TO TAME A FERAL CAT by Katherine Beaman